If you look in the mirror at the inside of your mouth and see white spots on your cheek tissue, it's not abnormal to panic a little. Many people are conditioned to assume they have cancer if they see any strange spots in their mouth, but in many cases, these spots are rather innocuous. Here's a look at what the spots may be, and what you should do about them.
What conditions cause white spots on the cheeks?
White spots on the cheek tissue are called leukoplakia. They can be caused by a wide array of conditions, most of which are rather harmless or short lived. Common causes include:
Infections: If you have a cold or the flu, the leukoplakia could be just another symptom. It could also be a sign of an isolated infection in your mouth.
Trauma: If you hit your mouth on something or accidentally bite your cheek, trauma to your cheek tissue may have caused the white spots to form. When this is the case, the spots are often quite sore and may sting when you eat anything tart or spicy. Sometimes they're also caused by dental appliances, like braces, rubbing on your cheeks.
Allergic Reactions: Have you eaten something abnormal lately? Your leukoplakia may just be a sign of an allergic reaction. If you have other allergy symptoms, like a scratchy throat or trouble breathing, seek emergency medical attention immediately. If the white spots are your only symptom, they should go away within a few hours, especially if you take an antihistamine like Benadryl.
Cancer: In rare cases, your white spots may be a sign of oral cancer. If you are a smoker or use chewing tobacco, you have an increased risk of this condition.
What should you do about the spots?
If you think the spots are due to a cold or allergy, give them a few days and see if they go away on their own. If they're still there, or if you're not sure of their cause, see your dentist. They will help you get to the bottom of the issue. If the spots are caused by a dental device, adjusting the device or resizing it may help stop it from rubbing. An antibacterial mouthwash may be recommended if your spots are caused by an infection.
If your dentist suspects your spots may be caused by oral cancer, he or she may take a sample of the tissue in the area and send it in for testing. You may be referred to a specialist for treatment.
Don't panic and assume you have cancer when you see spots in your mouth. In most cases, they'll go away on their own or with a little help from your dentist. Click here to continue reading more about this topic.